Scots secretary holds talks with Rangers bankers

Britain's Secretary of State for Scotland Jim Murphy held talks with Rangers’ bankers Lloyds today as the financial giant insisted they were not running the club.

Britain's Secretary of State for Scotland Jim Murphy held talks with Rangers’ bankers Lloyds today as the financial giant insisted they were not running the club.

Murphy stepped in following reports the banking group, 43% of which owned by the taxpayer, had threatened the club with administration over its debts.

Ranger boss Walter Smith claimed on Saturday the bank was now effectively overseeing the club’s spending and that all the players had been up for sale since January.

Current majority shareholder David Murray has declared his intention to sell his interest in the Light Blues, who are carrying debts of about £30m (€33m).

A Scotland Office spokesman confirmed that Murphy today spoke to Lloyds.

He said: “The Secretary of State for Scotland spoke to Lloyds Bank today about the importance of the bank’s support for Rangers Football Club.

“There are clearly financial difficulties facing Scottish football clubs - both large and small. Our national game is important to Scotland and will come through this recession and the wider pressures in football.”

In a statement today, the bank said: “We do not run or manage the companies that we bank – that is, quite properly, the responsibility of the management.

“Given the recent press coverage, we would therefore like to be clear that Rangers FC is neither operated or run by Lloyds Banking Group.

“We would also like to be clear that Sir David Murray’s decision to step down as chairman was a personal decision and not at the behest of Lloyds Banking Group.”

It is understood the bank has not raised the prospect of Rangers being placed in administration if club bosses failed to introduce a series of cost-cutting measures at Ibrox.

The statement added: “The board of Rangers FC is developing and implementing a sustainable business plan and we have agreed to support this plan.

“The group is aware of the unique position that football occupies across many Scottish communities and has been working with Scottish football clubs, including Rangers.”

Lloyds is 43.5% owned by the UK taxpayer after the government bailed it out to the tune of billions of pounds at the height of the credit crunch.

Smith’s contract and that of assistant boss Ally McCoist expires in January.

But Rangers chief executive Martin Bain has insisted the club will not be forced to sell players in the January transfer window.

Echoing the club’s statement from yesterday, he said: “The club can confirm that while there have been tentative enquiries regarding the sale of the club, there are none that have realised an offer.

“As stated by Sir David Murray, it is not necessarily about price, but the new owner having the capability to take the club forward that remains essential.”

Bain said Lloyds is “supportive” of the club during a period of “difficult economic conditions.”

Smith today refused to answer questions about the club’s claim that no players need to be sold in January.

After Saturday’s 1-1 Clydesdale Bank Premier League draw with Hibernian at Ibrox, Smith claimed “the players at the club have been up for sale since January”.

At today’s press conference ahead of tomorrow night’s Co-operative Insurance Cup quarter-final at Dundee, Smith replied to the first question about the topic by saying: “They (the club) issued a statement and that’s it.”

The next enquiry was met by a similar response, Smith saying: “I said the club issued a statement last night and that’s it as far as I’m concerned, that’s it finished with.”

Quizzed again, the Rangers boss repeated broadly the same answer.

Smith, who later threatened to walk out if the subject was broached one more, did admit the current negativity around the club is having an impact.

He said: “If there is a level of negativity around the place, it affects everyone, not just the players.

“The thing that we have to concentrate on is the results of the games.

“We had an extremely poor result in the Champions League last week and we had a decent game with Hibs, and both teams deserve a bit of credit for the way they played.

“Now we have a difficult cup tie coming up and, while there may be levels of negativity around the place, we don’t and can’t allow it to affect us.

“You’ve got to overcome that aspect of it.”

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